Hairdresser overcomes stroke to cut again

Staff writer

More than two years ago, Laura Robinson sold all of her hair dressing equipment; effectively, she was retired. The skillful control she had developed over a 40-year career was gone in an instant.

This sad reality was only a memory on Tuesday as she cut a customer’s hair. Her hands worked in concert as she rotated around the wooly canvas. The right delivered the strokes, a flutter of quick cuts through thick brown hair. The left was the guide, holding the now shortened strands with a steady grip.

Robinson knew she could not do this task one handed. She suffered a stroke on March 30, 2009, that affected the left side of her body. She believes the stroke was a reaction to work related stress. With her former husband, she was working at four different businesses in Marion’s industrial park — about 10-hour days.

Even after a year of physical therapy at St. Luke Living Center, her left hand still ached with monotonous consistency. The control the hand provided during a haircut seemed to be lost.

“Having a stroke took away my livelihood,” she said. “It threw me into an incredible depression. Hair dressing has been my life.”

When she looked into the mirror, she thought of herself as ugly. That changed when she styled and colored her own hair again; being the only customer, she did not care how long it took. The act was the inspiration she needed. She became determined to keep improving the strength in her hand to eventually cut and color hair again. Some of the exercises, like moving beans from one container to another, were tedious, but Robinson knew each provided slow improvement.

The entire time she was moving her body desperately to revive feeling to her extremities, her shop at 1240 Commercial Drive, Marion remained stationary. Robinson was awarded two tanning beds in her divorce settlement. Although the Hair Company, its name for 10 years, was now misleading, the salon still offered tanning.

“You can’t live on just tanning,” Robinson said. “Not in Marion.”

The shop provided Robinson an opportunity to revive her career. When she started working again, she purchased a massaging pedicure chair. From pedicures, she moved on to manicures, until her hands were strong enough to cut and color hair. Even since rebranding her store as the Beautiful Body Company in September, she said that tanning and pedicures are her two most frequent requests.

A sauna was Robinson’s salvation. Although the pain in her left hand had gradually improved, it had not been eradicated. Always looking for new equipment, Robinson encountered a lay down sauna at a tanning expo in Kansas City. When she placed her hand inside the gray cylindrical machine for 15 minutes, the pain was relieved.

After that, Robinson was a believer in the sauna’s revitalizing powers. She bought a simplified sauna for herself. She spends an hour a day in the sauna that reaches 130 degrees Fahrenheit. She has lost 15 pounds — she said the sauna can burn 1,200 calories in an hour and compared it to a six-mile run. The sauna has not caught on with customers, but she said the infrared heat feels even better with cold weather outdoors.

Robinson achieved a goal when she started cutting hair again. A new goal was to make Beautiful Body Company a relaxing environment for customers. She thinks she has achieved this goal as well because she has gotten a good response from her customers.

A pedicure in Robinson’s massaging chair can do wonders for swollen legs.

“When I was done with the pedicure, their legs were so much better and they would call me and tell me how much better they felt,” Robinson said.

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